by JOSHUA KUMMINS
So it begins…February is here and that means the final push to the playoff in college hockey. Here are the best five teams of the week gone by from around New England:
1. Maine: For the casual fan, Team of the Week Maine sweeping a series in Hockey East play may sound like nothing new. However, this season has been a struggle to say the least, but the Black Bears still pulled one out. But to pull it out at No. 3 Boston College in straight sets seemed virtually impossible entering the weekend. Junior Jon Swavely led the attack en route to earning Co-Player of the Week honors, scoring two goals and an assist in the sweep, including a pair in Saturday’s 3-1 victory. The victories, both for junior goaltender Martin Ouellette, were Maine’s first two consecutive at Kelley Rink since January 1993. Freshman Ryan Lomberg has four career goals and three of which have been game-winners, after scoring the deciding strike for a 4-1 win to open the weekend. Lomberg and his freshman classmates accounted for eight of Maine’s 15 points in the series – a group led by Will Merchant, who has scored both of his career goals against the Eagles. Looking to capture more momentum and continue its chase into the league playoff race, the Black Bears welcome Providence and Maine to Alfond Arena.
**After last Tuesday’s late victory over UConn, Quinnipiac remains second in both national polls released on Monday to remain the highest-ranked team in New England. The Bobcats received the most first-place votes in program history in both polls, collecting 33 combined, including 22 in the USCHO.com ranking – a mark that narrowly trails Minnesota.
2. UMass-Lowell: Despite dropping a point in a 4-4 tie on Friday, the River Hawks continued an 11-game unbeaten streak with an exciting three-point weekend against the Northeastern Huskies to take the season series, thanks to the opening meeting of the season on Dec. 8, 2012, which was won in a 2-0 shutout. On Saturday, UML trailed 4-1 in the first minute of the third period and battled back with three third-period goals, followed by freshman Christian Folin’s emphatic winner in overtime for a 5-4 win. The Gothenburg, Sweden native also posted an assist in the series opener at Matthews Arena to earn league Rookie of the Week honors. The River Hawks are approaching their Division I-era record for consecutive games unbeaten, previously set during an 11-0-3 stretch from 2004-05. Junior Joseph Pendenza (Wilmington, Mass.) tallied a goal and four assists on the weekend, including one in the final stanza of Saturday’s comeback win, which was played in front of a Tsongas Center all-time record crowd of 7,013. This weekend brings the nation’s No. 12/13 squad to Merrimack and Maine for Friday and Sunday road games.
3. Boston University: The No. 9/11 Terriers, which have won six of their last seven conference road games, jumped into a second-place tie with New Hampshire in the Hockey East league standings, after capturing a win and a tie against Providence in a tight home-and-home set. Rookie Danny O’Regan (Needham, Mass.) is the nation’s leading scorer over the past three weeks as he has posted four goals and 11 points in six games, while leading a line with Matt Nieto and Evan Rodrigues that has tallied 28 total points in that span. In Friday’s 3-2 win at Schneider Arena, BU continued an impressive streak of having allowed two goals or less in each of its 13 victories this year. Sophomore Cason Hohmann is fourth in the nation in plus-minus at +17, while Matt Grzelyck (Charlestown, Mass.) leads all Hockey East defensemen with 14 assists.
4. Brown: The Bears split their third-consecutive set in ECAC play last weekend, improving to 3-3-2 over their last eight league games. In a loss at Colgate on Friday, sophomore Matt Harlow (Bridgewater, Mass.) scored in the third period, but it was not enough in a 2-1 defeat. Things changed the following night at Cornell as senior Jeff Ryan began the charge en route to a 3-0 shutout of the Big Red in Ithaca. Senior Anthony Borelli, a New York native, stopped all 23 shots he faced in what became his first-career shutout – the team’s first over CU since 1991. This weekend, the Bears face No. 2 Quinnipiac and Princeton this weekend in the first league games of the season between the two at Meehan Auditorium.
T-5. Bentley, Holy Cross split:In a home-and-home series between a pair of in-state Atlantic Hockey rivals, the Falcons and Crusaders fought to a split with each side winning on the road. Led by three assists from the league’s January Rookie of the Month Andrew Gladiuk, the Falcons were 4-1 winners in the opening contest Friday at the Hart Center. The White Rock, British Columbia native, who also assisted on the lone goal in Saturday’s 2-1 loss, is second on the team with 26 points and is tied with Northeastern’s Kevin Roy for tops in the nation among rookies at 1.18 goals per-game. Cross senior Evan Zych netted his first-career tally to win the Saturday contest in Watertown, while rookie Castan Sommer (Shrewsbury, Mass.) posted a goal and an assist in the two contests.